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Derek Brunson questions Israel Adesanya's future: What's going to happen when I knock him out?

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NEW YORK – Israel Adesanya may talk a big game, but Derek Brunson believes he saw a different truth behind the bravado in their first face-to-face interaction, the night before a press conference promoting the UFC’s fall lineup.

“I saw him out at the bar,” Brunson explained to MMAjunkie. “We were staying in the same hotel, and he was out there chilling at the bar, drinking, being belligerent. I saw him, and he came up and tried to shake my hand. I was like, ‘Izzy, man, you was talking all this trash. Why are you trying to shake my hand?’ At that point, I knew he wasn’t’ really about – he didn’t really want to fight. He was playing the hype game. He believes in his confidence, but I believe he knows what’s ahead for him.”

Adesanya (14-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) and Brunson (18-6 MMA, 9-4 UFC) meet on the pay-per-view main card of Saturday’s UFC 230 event, which takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card follows prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

The matchup had been brewing for a bit before it was officially announced. Adesanya took the public route, using social media to jab at his fellow middleweight. For his part, Brunson said he never really took offense to the barbs but did take notice as to how often his name was being brought up by Adesanya.

“The kid doesn’t lack for confidence, so I think after his first fight, they were asking him about fighters, and they mentioned me, and he kind of laughed,” Brunson recalled. “I think before, he was saying how, ‘Derek’s out here knocking people out, so I can knock people out.’ He just mentioned my name every opportunity he got, so we had the opportunity to fight, and I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it. Let’s line this fight up. I want to do it.’

“He’s one of the up-and-comers, and he’s right in my weight. Everybody is asking me questions like, I’m not fighting to get to his spot. He’s fighting to get to my spot, and I’m cool holding my spot right now.”

With 13 previous UFC appearances compared to Adesanya’s three, Brunson is certainly the more established veteran. That said, there’s not a lot of space between them in the division, with Brunson at No. 10 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA middleweight rankings, and Adesanya just behind at No. 13.

That said, the hype is certainly behind Adesanya, a flashy, undefeated striking specialist whose three UFC wins have all come in the past eight months. Brunson isn’t buying it.

“It’s all fun and games to me,” Brunson said. “He can say whatever he wants to say, but the fact of the matter is, when you get out there, it’s a different story, and I fought some elite strikers, and I knocked them out. You’ve got a guy that everybody is looking at as an elite striker the media is hyping up – the media loves him. What’s going to happen when I knock him out or I touch that chin? What’s up with your striking then?

“I think it’s very important to be very conscious and understand what you’re getting yourself into because if you get knocked out and you’re this so-called nasty striker, then what are you after that?”

According to the oddsmakers, Brunson is a sizable underdog heading into the contest, but the veteran said he’s unconcerned with any outside evaluation. Brunson said he knows exactly what he’s facing in Adesanya, and he warns everyone to be prepared for the inevitable result.

“I’ve seen a lot of holes in Izzy’s game, so don’t be surprised if I knock him out in the first round,” Brunson said. “I see myself just putting it on him, getting the win, but don’t be surprised if I knock him out in the first round.”

For the latest on UFC 230, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.



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